“No Excuse” – Jeremiah 7:30-8:12

July 7th, 2019

Jeremiah 7:30-8:12

“No Excuse”

Aux. Texts: Luke 14:15-24 or Romans 1:18-32

Call to Worship: Psalm 14

 

Service Orientation: We were created in God’s likeness and image.  We had breathed into us the breath of God. This means we are innately programmed to follow God. We have available to us God’s Word, God’s Spirit, God’s Church and God’s Creation to encourage and instruct us towards obedience.  We have no excuse for not obeying God.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. — Romans 1:20

                                       

Background Information:

  • Jeremiah uses variations of the word “turn” or its equivalent six times in these verses. The people of Jerusalem had wandered far away from God and would not come back home.  They had turned, but they would not return.  They were perpetual backsliders.  They had not learned from their spiritual mistakes.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 150)
  • If this makes grim reading, so be it. Jeremiah never allowed his people the comfort of self-deception.  The false had to be destroyed; illusory security had to be shattered.  Only then could there be any word of hope.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 79)
  • The end of chapter 7 through the beginning of chapter 8 is a horrible passage of Scripture, in the sense that it describes horrible actions and contains horrible images. It is one of the low points of Jeremiah’s book.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 139)
  • One of the troubling things about this passage is that it does not contain any grace. In the words of one commentator, the sermon “ends without relief.”  This is surprising because Jeremiah usually gives at least a little taste of the grace of God, even if it only amounts to half a verse.  But Jeremiah’s sermon about the Valley of Slaughter seems to be graceless.

The reason there is no grace in this passage is very simple: the Valley of Slaughter is the Valley of Hell.  The common NT term for Hell is Gehenna.  It occurs in places like Luke 12, where Jesus tells his disciples to fear the one who “has power to throw you into hell” (v. 5), or Matthew 23, where Jesus warns the Pharisees that they are in danger of “being condemned to hell [Gehenna]” (v. 33).

What or where is Gehenna?  In Jesus day, it was the ravine south of Jerusalem where the refuse of the city was burnt, and so Jesus used it as a picture of the fires of eternal judgment.  But Gehenna is the same word as Ben Hinnom.  So when the NT speaks about Hell, it is speaking about the very place that Jeremiah described in his sermon on the Valley of Slaughter.  The Valley of Ben Hinnom is the Valley of Hell.  It is a place of abomination, wickedness, burning, and cruelty.  It is a place of living death.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 145)

  • Although there is no grace in the Valley of Slaughter, there is a gracious promise about the valley later in Jeremiah’s book. It appears among the promises of the new covenant at the end of chapter 31: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hannanel to the Corner Gate. . . The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown. . . will be holy to the LORD.  The city will never again be uprooted or demolished” (31:38, 40).  The valley mentioned in this promise is the Valley of Ben Hinnom, formerly filled with the bodies and ashes of child sacrifice.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 147)
  • (v. 7:34) This is one of the saddest verses in the book of Jeremiah. It is a prophecy of God’s judgment on the family.  Joyful families produce joyful weddings.  But in a society in which parents sacrifice their children for their own comfort, the family is doomed.  Infanticide, abortion, bad parenting, and divorce all undermine a society’s confidence in the institution of marriage.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 145)
  • (v. 8:3) Life is associated with Yahweh; death with other gods. Not only did the dead and buried (vv. 1-2) prefer death to life, but so do the people who still remain (the survivors of this evil nation).  Such an attitude is illustrated by the thinking and actions of the people who are left in the land after the destruction of Jerusalem and the assassination of Gedaliah (Jer 43-44).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 79)
  • (v. 8:4) The problem was not that they couldn’t get up, because they could. The problem was that they wouldn’t get up. This amazed Jeremiah because it was unnatural, foolish, and inexplicable.  When people fall down, they always get back up.  So why were the people of Jerusalem still lying in the dust?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 150)
  • (v. 8:6) Warhorses usually wear blinders so they will not be frightened by the horrible sights of battle. They just put their heads down and charge.  Each pursues his own course, paying no attention to where he is going, simply rushing headlong into the fray.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 152)
  • (v. 8:7) Jeremiah attacked the widespread biblical illiteracy of his day. His people did not know God’s requirements.  They did not go to hear the scribes read the Torah.  They did not recite the Ten Commandments or teach them to their children.  They were deliberately ignorant about spiritual things.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 153)
  • (v. 8:8) The Apostle Paul told Timothy to handle the Bible carefully, to be an “approved. . . workman. . . who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tm 2:15). The scribes of Jerusalem did just the opposite.  They mishandled the Bible.  They were wrongly dividing the word of truth.  They distorted the Scriptures to their own destruction.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 154)
  • (v. 8:8) These scribes were the original naughty televangelists. They were in the ministry for the money and the glory.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 155)
  • (v. 8:8) We must assume, then, that the scribes who were responsible for copying the book, and perhaps expounding it to the people, so interpreted it falsely that the people were prevented from facing the challenge of the living word of the Lord on the lips of the prophet. There is no reason to question the sincerity of these scribes, but they may have been encouraging the people to listen to the promises in the book–and there are many in Deuteronomy–but to forget that such promises were conditional.  The written word was fostering a mood of self-complacent optimism against which Jeremiah protests.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 82)
  • (v. 8:11) No one is motivated by love of the Lord, but rather by commercial profit. When God’s people are hurting or in distress, it is precisely the prophets and priests who represent the great Physician and heal the people.  When the cancer (sin) is deep, the remedy is painful but necessary.  However, these physicians treat the serious problem of the people’s sin as if it were not.  They tell them “Peace” when was is about to break out.

These quacks should feel great shame.  They are supposed to be healers, but they do not heal.  They rather settle for gain.  Accordingly, God will punish them.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 82)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . How can man be inherently wicked when he has been created in God’s likeness and image, had God’s Spirit breathed into him, and has available all sorts of resources to encourage him to follow God?

 

Answer: Because man is broken, corrupt, perverted, distorted, depraved and lost; we need to come to terms with this, stop making excuses, and seek the Lord with all our hearts in order to get a life.

 

Not only did they refuse to repent for their sins, they did not even know the way back home.  They did not know God’s requirements.  One might say they were birdbrains, but according to this passage, that would be an insult to the birds!  There is something unnatural about deliberate ignorance among the people of God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 153)

 

An excuse is a lie wrapped up in a reason. – Kerby Fannin

 

Excuses can be lies packed in the skin of reason. — Chuck Swindoll

 

Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.   (John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court)

 

A man who wants to do something will find a way; a man who doesn’t will find an excuse.  (Stephen Dolley, Jr.)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Excuse

 

What do the words success and excuses have in common?  Nothing!  Those who achieve success never rely on excuses.  And those who rely on excuses never achieve success.

 

Love will find a way.  Indifference will find an excuse.

 

Throw away the excuses and face reality!  The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.”  It means your old sinful nature is in control.  Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind.  It means that you are not abiding in Christ.  Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse.  It means you have a weak connection to Jesus. (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)

 

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. — Ben Franklin

 

What can we learn from Jeremiah 7:30-8:12?:

I-  There is no excuse for disregarding life.  (Jer 7:30-8:3; see also: Gn 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; ; Ps 8:3-8; 1 Cor 11:7; Jam 3:9)

 

The way this is phrased suggests that some of the religious leaders in Judah were claiming that child sacrifice had entered the mind of God, that he did command it.  Some scholars point out that the priests of Topheth may have used the Torah to justify child sacrifice: “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. . . on the eighth day” (Ex 22:29-30).  They were taking that verse out of context; it had nothing to do with child sacrifice.  This is why we need to be careful not to tear Bible verses out of their Biblical contexts, especially when we are talking about the way of salvation.  What the verse actually meant was that God wanted his people to circumcise their sons on the eight day, not that he wanted them to kill their sons.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 141)

 

The cultural environment for a human holocaust is present whenever any society can be misled into defining individuals as less than human and therefore devoid of value and respect.  —William Brennan  (Ronald Reagan; Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 29)

 

Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.  —Malcom Muggeridge  (Ronald Reagan; Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 34)

 

The high priests of the abortion industry tell women that their physical comfort, their economic status, and their career plans are all more important than the life of their unborn child.  Every abortion is a sacrifice to those ungodly gods.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 142-3)

 

Anyone who has ever carried a child in her womb knows how intimate a relationship forms between mother and child, how a fetus responds to the moods and schedules of her mother.  Anyone who has ever seen pictures, videotapes, or ultrasounds of children in the womb knows how early the human heart forms, and how the fetus can respond to pleasure and pain.  To know those things is to know instantly and instinctively that abortion is the murder of an unborn child.  There is no substantive moral difference between the child sacrifices offered in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and abortion as practiced in America.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 142)

 

Man was created in the image of God and can only know his true identity when he is rightly related to God.  Schizophrenia or having multiple personalities, is perpetuated by a frustrated sense of identity.  The schizophrenia of man is increasing as he moves farther from the One in whose image he was made.  Conversely, as we draw closer to Him, we come to know clearly who we really are.  As we draw closer to Him, we will become the most consistent, decisive, stable people the world has ever known.  External situations and social pressures will no longer end us and shape us.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 41)

 

However else He might manifest Himself in nature, God could not become incarnate in angels because they were not created in the full image of God.  No other created being approaches the capacity of the human being to “contain God.”  Only human beings have a nature in which God can become incarnate.  God tipped His hand, so to speak, in the incarnation.  By this He dignified the human race and elevated redeemed humanity beyond the highest ranking angelic star in the radiant canopy of the firmament.  (Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 34)

 

It is beyond argument that a man who has never been instructed in philosophy or in any branch of learning is a creature quite inferior to the brute animals.  Animals only follow their natural instincts; but man, unless he has experienced the influence of learning and philosophy, is at the mercy of impulses that are worse than those of a wild beast.  There is no beast more savage and dangerous than a human being who is swept along by the passions of ambition, greed, anger, envy, extravagance, and sensuality.  Therefore, a father who does not arrange for his son to receive the best education at the earliest age is neither a man himself nor has any fellowship with human nature.  (Richard M. Gamble, The Great Tradition, 363-4)

 

Abortions, “mercy killing,” using a woman or child to gratify sexual needs, active homosexuality—these are hardly new tendencies.  What is new is that in Western Judeo-Christian culture none of these things were considered acceptable behavior until we convinced ourselves that we are qualitatively no different from a community of overachieving amoebas.  Slowly society has been conditioned, and is continuing to be conditioned, to tolerate, accept, and even value such “modernity.” …Underneath its scientific facade, the doctrines of the evolutionary world view demand that the strong survive, the weak must move aside, and that ultimately none of it matters much. (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 122)

 

What Jeremiah teaches is that it is a wicked thing for parents to put their own needs and desires ahead of the needs and desires of their children.  Obviously the Valley of Ben Hinnom is an extreme example.  But every time a career is put ahead of a family, every time anger prevents the exercise of loving discipline, and every time children must adjust to their parents’ interests rather than the other way around, parents display the same heart-attitude that the people of Judah displayed when they went down to Ben Hinnom.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 143)

 

For the body to remain unburied, thereby providing food for carrion birds and rodents, was a thing of unspeakable horror for the ancient Hebrews.  Ironically, their sanctuary would become their cemetery as the treasured homeland was ravaged.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 88)

 

I have heard some people with particular pluck claim that the unborn being is a part of the woman’s body.  They claim that an abortion is similar to clipping a woman’s toenails.  This claim runs counter to common sense and counter to scientific consensus.  Think about it.  Every part of a woman’s body–including her toenail clippings–contains her unique DNA.  But the unborn being has its own unique DNA.   Therefore, the unborn being cannot be a part of the woman’s body.  (Bruce Riley Ashford, Letters to an American Christian, 75-6)

 

In an article supporting the pro-life movement, “Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote, “There is growing awareness that the moral ecology of the country has suffered something like an environmental disaster, and that we are faced with a very complicated cleanup operation.”  Indeed, abortion license has eroded the moral foundations of our civic community and numbed our collective consciences by normalizing lethal violence against innocent humans.  Instead of reinforcing our intuitive desire to protect those persons among us who are weakest and most vulnerable, it demands that we adjust our consciences to the termination of those persons.  To use biblical language, we are slowly searing our own consciences.  (Bruce Riley Ashford, Letters to an American Christian, 82)

 

Atheists can and do understand right from wrong because the Moral Law is written on their hearts just as on every other heart.  But while they may believe in an objective right and wrong, they have no way to justify such a belief (unless they admit a Moral Law Giver, at which point they cease being atheists).  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 193)

 

Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves.   Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide.  My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land,  and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have meaning. (Ronald Reagan; Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 38)

 

Roman citizens did not rely principally on abortion for birth control. The women bore their babies, then abandoned them by the side of the road for wild animals or vultures.  Likewise, Romans and Greeks also practiced a form of same-gender sex: older men commonly used younger boys as their sex slaves, in pederasty.

Thus in Jesus’ and Paul’s day both these moral issues asserted themselves in ways that today would be criminal in any civilized country on earth.  No country allows a person to kill a full-term, delivered baby.  No country legally permits sex with children.  Jesus and Paul doubtless knew of these deplorable practices.  And yet Jesus said nothing about either one, and Paul made only a few references to cross-gender sex.  Both concentrated not on the pagan kingdom around them but on the alternative kingdom of God. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 236)

 

It is not without interest that a central focus of the culture wars is the body.   Whereas once religious involvement was associated with so-called bar-room vices, such as smoking and drinking, the body itself is now at the forefront of debate, whether in relation to genetic engineering, abortion, pornography, or the rights of gays and lesbians.  (Rabbi David Lyon; Jesus in Disneyland, 46-7)

 

My suspicion is that when sin affected man so deeply, it touched his spiritual dimensions most severely of all, while leaving the original physical appetites and desires virtually undiminished.  Our instinctive preoccupations with food, sexual pleasure, and security are probably close to their original levels.  It may be helpful to speculate that man in his sinless nature once probably had as great, if not greater, desire for communion with the Creator as he has for the satisfaction of the natural and very real appetites and instincts that we live with today. (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 146)

 

As Myron Magnet explains in The Dream and the Nightmare, traditional liberal thought fixed responsibility for crime on poverty and other social ills–which in turn are shaped by impersonal economic forces.  The liberal solution to crime was to modify those economic forces through enlightened social policy and government programs.

But this assumes a very low view of human nature–a sub-Christian view.  It treats people as passive products of the environment–like corn or alfalfa that automatically grows or wilts depending on the rain and sunshine.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 182)

 

He gave him reason and understanding.  He made him essentially different from the animals.  Animals live according to their lusts, their instincts, their desires; not so man.  He was given a critical faculty.  He was given the power of looking on at himself and of making estimates.  He was able to curb and to control himself.  He was different, not a part of creation but the lord of it.  God, in other words, gave something of his own power.  He could not have paid a greater compliment.

And not only that, God gave freedom.  Man, as he was originally made, was absolutely free, with free will, complete freedom of choice.  And not only that, God set before man a very glorious possibility.  He told him that if he obeyed the commandments of God, he would be glorified and would never die at all.

That is how God made man and set him in this world.  And God here argues that he has a perfect right, therefore, to lay down conditions for men and women and to make demands of them.  There is nothing derogatory in that.  There is nothing derogatory in asking them to acknowledge the lordship of the Almighty. ( D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 140-1)

 

This barbarous act may have been intended as a deliberate insult to the community, or perhaps had as its aim the uncovering of valuables thought to be buried with the corpses.  It could, however, be interpreted as incidental to the construction of a ramp prior to the final assault on the capital, though this suggestion is rather improbable.  The sense seems to be that of deliberately exposing the fallen devotees to the astral deities worshiped, which are thereby proved powerless to prevent the gross humiliation and indignity described.  A final observation reminds the Judeans that the remains will be like so much manure on the ground.  Even more miserable than the fate of those who perished would be the lot of the survivors.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 88)

 

Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould summarized human life by saying, “We are because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook.  We may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer–but none exists.”  (Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God, 16)

 

Darwinists falsely believe they can reduce life to its nonliving chemical components.  That’s the ideology of reductionism.  For Darwinists like Dawkins or Crick who must believe that only the material (and not the immaterial) exists, then life can be nothing more than chemicals.  But life is clearly more than chemicals.  Life contains a message–DNA–that is expressed in chemicals, but those chemicals cannot cause the message any more than the chemicals in ink and paper can cause the sentences on this page.  A message points to something beyond chemicals.  The message in life, just like the one on this page, points to an intelligence beyond its chemical elements.  (We realize that life is certainly more than chemicals with a message, but the key point here is that it’s certainly not less.)  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 122)

 

Our ability to reason can come from one of only two places: either our ability to reason arose from preexisting intelligence, or it arose from mindless matter.  The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention.  We say it is by faith because it contradicts all scientific observation, which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause.  You can’t give what you haven’t got, yet materialists believe that dead, unintelligent matter has produced intelligent life.  This is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop!

It makes much more sense to believe that the human mind is made in the image of the Great Mind–God.  In other words, our minds can apprehend truth and can reason about reality because they were built by the Architect of truth, reality, and reason itself.  Materialism cannot explain reason any more than it can explain life.  Materialism is just not reasonable.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 130)

 

“If the God of life does not respond to the culture of death (21st century western civilization – abortion) with judgment, then God is not God.   If God does not honor the blood of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.

But, you may object: Is not the God of the Bible forgiving?

He is!  But, the unrepentant refuse forgiveness.  Forgiveness being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received.  How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive, except unforgiveness; nothing to judge but judgementalism; nothing lacking but self-esteem?  How can a Pharisee or a pop-psychologist be saved?

But, you might object: Is not the God of the Bible compassionate?

He is!   But, He is not compassionate to Molech and Baal and Ashtoreth, and to the Canaanites who do their work to cause their children to pass through the fire.  Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice, the god of your demands, the god of your religious preferences.  But, not the God of the Bible.  Read the Book.  Look at the data. ( Peter Kreeft lecture, Culture War”)

 

They worshiped other gods rather than the true God.  Jeremiah mentions the astral deities (sun, moon, stars).  God created these heavenly bodies, but, as later articulated by Paul (Rom 1:22-23), the Israelites had taken a bit of creation and exalted it to the position of the creator.  They had gone into the presence of these astral deities in order to love, serve, follow, consult and worship them during their lives, so God will let them continue to be in their presence (they will be exposed to the sun) in death.  Their bones will be placed in the presence of the sun, moon, and stars, but the result will be that their remains will deteriorate (be like refuse, i.e., manure).  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 79)

 

Invading armies often desecrated the graves and bodies of those they had conquered to show contempt for them.  This was a form of gloating over their victory.  When the people faced such cruel tactics and crushing experiences, they often preferred death rather than such humiliation.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 85)

 

Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.  (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine)

 

The image of God in which man was and is made has been variously explained in detail. Although scholars may differ on the nuances of the phrase, there is general agreement that it has to do with dignity, destiny, and freedom.

The assertion that man is made in God’s image shows each man his true dignity and worth. As God’s image-bearer, he merits infinite respect. God’s claims on us must be taken with total seriousness. No human being should ever be thought of as simply a cog in a machine, or mere means to an end.

The assertion points also to each man’s true destiny. Our Maker so designed us that our nature finds final satisfaction and fulfillment only in a relationship of responsive Godlikeness—which means, precisely, that state of correspondence between our acts and God’s will which we call obedience. Living that is obedient will thus be teleological—progressively realizing our telos (Greek for “end” or “goal”).

Also the assertion confirms the genuineness of each man’s freedom. Experience tells us that we are free, in the sense that we make real choices between alternatives and could have chosen differently, and theology agrees. Self-determining freedom of choice is what sets God and his rational creatures apart from, say, birds and bees, as moral beings. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)

 

No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.  (Mathewes-Green, Real Choices, 19)

 

II-  There is no excuse for disregarding God.   (Jer 8:4-12; see also: Dt 32:21, 39; 1 Chr 17:20; Ps 14:1; 53:1; Isa 1:1-3; Lk 14:15-24Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 8:4)  

 

More than anything else, failing to take God seriously is the problem with the contemporary church.  We trivialize the holiness of God, so we end up with a trivial view of sin.  We trivialize the majesty of God, so we end up with trivial worship.  We trivialize the truth of God, so we end up with a trivial grasp of his Word.  We trivialize the judgment of God, so we end up with a trivial appreciation for the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Our God is too trivial!  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 156)

 

The scribes of Jerusalem denied that God would judge their sin.  Their people needed an emergency heart transplant, but these quack-pastors came around with their Band-aids and their lollipops.  “There, there,” they said, “you’re okay.  God will not judge your sin.”  “Peace, peace,” they said.  “Shalom, shalom.”  One reason they wrongly divided the word of truth was because they did not take God seriously.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 156)

 

They were like horses rushing into battle, having no idea of the dangers involved.  Horses are trained to obey and may not know any better, but people made in the image of God ought to know where they’re going.  In fact, the people of Judah weren’t as smart as the birds! (See Isa 1:3.)  God gave the birds the instinct to know the seasons and the times of their migrations, but He gave people so much more: a spirit within to hear God’s voice and understand His law.  Made in the image of God, men and women ought to be as obedient to divine instruction as birds are to natural instinct.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 55)

 

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 1)

 

We tend to think of our failures and our disloyalty to God as being somehow natural–after all we are all sinners, are we not?  They are in fact “unnatural,” out of character for those who claim to be committed to God.  Our homing instinct should be towards God, not away from him.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 81-2)

 

“One so often hears people say, “I just can’t handle it,” when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross.  I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: If we seek a God we can “handle,” that will be exactly what we get.  A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.” —Kathleen Norris  (Phillip Yancey; Reaching for the Invisible God, 112)

 

The prophet detects in the arrogant, willful apostasy of his people something quite contrary to nature.  He concludes that they are deliberately stifling the instinct to obey divine ordinances in favor of indulging in the immoral rituals of Canaanite religion.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 88-9)

 

Whereas normal people eventually learn from mistakes, the Judeans will never profit from experience because they are obstinate and willful.  However, there is still time for them to be saved if only they will repent.  But the tragedy is that, while birds follow faithfully the instinctive urges of migration, the Israelites steadfastly refuse to yield to the promptings of covenant love.  The ordinance is anything decreed by God, whether the instinct of the migratory birds or the directions given for human guidance.  Jeremiah finds it incredible that a people can behave so unnaturally towards its Creator.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 89)

 

Even subhuman creatures (v. 7) know how to follow their instincts better than Judah follows the way of the Lord.  Migratory birds recognize and follow the seasons of their migration instinctively.  The stork, dove, swift, and thrush regularly return to Palestine every spring.  They know more about God’s appointed way for them than Judah knows about God’s appointed way for her (cf. Isa 1:1-3).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 435)

 

Inadvertent errors do not bring outrage to God, but rather the extent to which human hearts and minds are bent on achieving evil ends. (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 56)

 

God is not a scientific problem, and scientific methods are not capable of solving it.  The reason why scientific methods are often thought to be capable of solving it is the success of their application in positive sciences.  The fallacy involved in this analogy is that of treating God as if He were a phenomenon within the order of nature.  The truth, however, is that the problem of God is not only related to phenomena within nature but to nature itself; not only to concepts within thinking but to thinking itself.  It is a problem that refers to what surpasses nature, to what lies beyond all things and all concepts.

The moment we utter the name of God we leave the level of scientific thinking and enter the realm of the ineffable.  Such a step is one which we cannot take scientifically, since it transcends the boundaries of all that is given.  It is in spite of all warnings that man has never ceased to be stirred by ultimate questions.  Science cannot silence him, because scientific terms are meaningless to the spirit that raises these questions, meaningless to the concern for a truth greater than the world that science is engaged in exploring.

God is not the only problem which is inaccessible to science.  The problem of the origin of reality remains immune to it.  There are aspects of given reality which are congruous with the categories of scientific logic, while there are aspects of reality which are inaccessible to this logic.  Even some aspects and concepts of our own thinking are impregnable to analysis.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 102)

 

When people fall down, they get up again.  That’s the sensible thing to do.  If they find themselves walking on the wrong path, they retrace their steps and get on the right path.  Conclusion: If people can be sensible about these everyday matters, why can’t they be sensible about eternal matters, especially since the consequences are much more tragic?  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 55)

 

Birds know the proper time for an action (their migration), but the people do not know that they must heed the law and recognize that their sin makes this the proper time for repentance.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 80)

 

Two statements define their irrational conduct.  First, the people’s holding to deceit may mean their disloyalty to Yahweh, or it may characterize the idolatry to which they were addicted.  Of course, the two ideas would overlap since becoming attached to false gods was a form of disloyalty to Yahweh.  Second, being unwilling to repent was a form of hypocrisy in worship, seeking to pretend one kind of life when they were living the opposite.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 86)

 

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural.  We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism.  It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.  Moreover that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.  (Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997)  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 123)

 

Worship Point: Worship the God Whose patience, mercy, forgiveness and grace allows us every chance in the Book to return to who and what we were created and designed to be.

 

What they did was detestable; it was an abomination in God’s sight.  It would be like setting up a Shinto shrine or opening an adult book shop in your church fellowship hall.  Even if everything else in the church remained the same–pews, Bibles, songbooks–the place of worship would still be defiled.  What the people of Judah were bringing into the temple was such an affront to everything God stands for that it made the temple uninhabitable.  Worshiping extra gods does not enhance worship–it makes true worship impossible.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 140)

 

Gospel Application: Christ alone can change us so we are able to enjoy a new heart and a new mind so we can have the confidence and courage to confess our sins and become human once again and stop making excuses.

 

The tendency to excuse ourselves and quickly judge others is proof that pride has gripped our hearts.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 136)

 

We human beings have the amazing ability to deceive ourselves.  We rationalize, make up excuses, and say we will change tomorrow.  God brought circumstances into the life of the prodigal son that woke him up.  Suddenly he realized what had happened to him.  That awakening was the most critical event in his life. (R. C. Sproul; Before the Face of God: Book Two, 364)

 

The first step in any spiritual awakening is demolition.  We cannot make headway in seeking God without first tearing down the accumulated junk in our souls.  Rationalizing has to cease.  We have to start seeing the sinful debris we hadn’t noticed before, which is what holds back the blessing of God. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 159)

 

In the Biblical sense, the spiritual man is the man who has been begotten again, and has had not a part of his nature but all of his nature transformed by the supernatural act of the Spirit of God.  (J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man, 142)

 

One of the cultural factors most clearly associated with increasing the prevalence of alcoholism is the general acceptance of “alcoholism-as-a disease.”  Native Americans, for example, imbue alcohol with enormous power and take it as a “given” that they cannot drink it in a controlled manner.  Various American ethnic and cultural groups with low rates of alcoholism, such as the Jewish and Chinese communities, do not accept “loss of control” as an excuse for drunkenness.  These cultures assume that their members ought to control their alcohol intake and are fully able to do just that.  Thus it appears that to tell people that they are “powerless” over their alcohol consumption is to utter a self-fulfilling prophecy.  (William L. Playfair, M.D; The Useful Lie, 39-40)

 

Co-dependency advocates say that those who live with an alcoholic are just as dependent on alcohol as the alcoholic himself, because they too are subjected to its destructive effects.  Thus, they are “co-dependent.”

Key to understanding the co-dependency mind-set is the term “enabling.”  In co-dependency thinking, those who live with an addict are thought to materially contribute to his addiction by helping to create a favorable environment in which he can indulge.  They “enable” the addict to continue his addiction.  Enabling includes such behaviors are making excuses for the addict, denying the addiction, covering for the addict, taking responsibility for the addict, and protecting family and friends from the addict’s destructive behavior.  (William L. Playfair, M.D;.The Useful Lie, 117)

 

Dr. David Persing is a molecular genetics researcher and a Christian.  He says the biblical teaching that all of nature is fallen includes our genetic heritage.  As a result, we all have inborn tendencies toward various forms of sinful behavior–whether it’s addiction, a sexual disorder, or a tendency to ruthlessness or cowardice.

Yet our genes give no excuse for sin, Persing says.  We still have room for making real moral choices.  Everyone is dealt a different genetic hand in life, but we’re each responsible for how we play it.  The life-giving message of the gospel is that we are not pawns of our genes.  Despite our fallen nature, we can still be governed by God, not by our genes.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 175)

 

Calvin made an unguarded statement when he said babies are as depraved as rats.  Now that was an unfortunate mistake.   I wished Calvin would have never said that.   That is one of the few places where I disagree with Calvin.  Because it is a gross insult and injustice for the rats.  —R. C. Sproul

 

Our separation from God is the root cause of our separation from ourselves and from each other.  Our analysis dare not be superficial and merely blame our troubles on “sin,” but, on the other hand, our culture tends to downplay sin and to excuse it or rationalize it.  The more deliberately we penetrate the problem of sin, the more thoroughly we can cut its effects away.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 85)

 

The tougher the loss, the more tempting the rationalization.

 

That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions, and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day.   I know there are texts of Scripture which warrant such complaints.  I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil, and the world.  But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness, and an excuse for spiritual sloth.  (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, 46-7)

 

Those who label as simplistic a thoroughly Biblical approach to dealing with the problem of substance abuse among Christians woefully underestimate God’s power, God’s Word, God’s love and God’s grace.  In short, they underestimate God Himself.

…Scripture however, does not recognize “can’t help myself” excuses for sin.  You do or do not because you will or will not sin. (William L. Playfair, M.D; The Useful Lie, 165-6)

 

Depravity is man’s own way.  (Chuck Swindoll; “How Fights Are Started and Stopped”)

 

Of course, trusting in God plus any other god is not trusting in the one true God at all.  The gospel is Christ plus nothing.  To start adding to the gospel is not to improve it, but to destroy it.  You cannot walk down two or three roads at the same time.  It is either God’s way or the highway.  As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 139)

 

Spiritual Challenge: God often reciprocates back into our lives the very pain we inflict on others because of our  corruption, perversion, distortion or depravity; so we might wake up and realize the pain and suffering we are causing.

 

The people of Judah will be slaughtered in the very place where they once slaughtered their children.  R. K. Harrison observes that what was once “their sanctuary would become their cemetery.”  They have chosen death over life, and God will give them what they have chosen.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 144)

 

The punishment fits the crime.  These leaders did not cherish the bodies of their children, so their own bodies deserve to be treated like fertilizer.  They have worshiped the celestial bodies, so they deserve to have their bodies exposed to the sun, moon, and stars.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 144)

 

THE DOCTRINE of “RECIPROCALITY”:

 

• The measure you use, it will be measured to you – Mark 4:24

 

• If you forgive others God will forgive you – Matthew 6:12

• Proverbs:  as you give to the poor God will give to you

• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

• Luke 6:37-42 (heavy content in this passage)

• Matthew 7:1-5

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

 

  1. Dr. Alan Keyes in a message to Focus on the Family about 30 years ago developed a hauntingly, convicting comparison between 6th century BC Judah’s child sacrifice and our current culture of abortion. Do you see this?  Does it concern you?
  2. Because we are made in God’s likeness and image; and because God has revealed Himself in His Word, and Because God has provided us with the church and with prophets and teachers to explain and expound God’s Word; it should be the easiest thing in the world to fully, love, obey and follow God. What is our problem?   What does this thought reveal about the extent of the Fall?
  3. If we understand that God sometimes responds reciprocally to our sinful behavior, how can that understanding better make us aware of sins for which we are not currently aware?
  4. What should be our response when we hear ourselves making excuses?

 

So What?: God wants you to enjoy life in all of its abundance (Jn 10:10).  But, that can only come when we repent, turn to Jesus, and begin living as God created and designed us to live instead of making excuses. (Lk 15; 1 Tm 6:19).

 

If one of the marks of the ungodly is refusing to repent for sin, one of the marks of the Christian is regular repentance.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 152)

 

If the people of Jerusalem would do all that, if they would repent for their sins and go back home, they would receive a Father’s welcome.  Every prodigal sinner can receive the same thing.  If you have wandered away from God, all you need to do is go back home and tell your Father that you are sorry for your sins.  Then you will receive the Father’s welcome that the prodigal son received.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 151)

 

It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience.  It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes.  It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 120)

 

Your poorest effort is more pleasing to God than your strongest excuses.

 

Cessationism as a doctrine gives the dead church an excuse for its lack of power.  (Ron M. Phillips, Awakened by the Spirit, 76)

 

What the Lord seeks goes beyond the immediate comfort of His people.  In fact, as He gives us greater liberty, He expects greater obedience.  At the very same moment that God removes our burdens, He removes our excuses as well.

The Lord does not free us so we can return to the type of behavior that caused our misery in the first place!  Even as you are being blessed, refreshed, and healed, remember: “from everyone who has been given much shall much be required” (Lk 12:48).  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 86-7)

 

Jack Miller’s Tongue Assignment:

 

*   Do not complain or grumble about anything.

Do not boast about anything.

Do not gossip or repeat a matter.

Do not run someone down – even a little bit.

Do not defend or excuse yourself – no matter what.

DO affirm one another.

 

JESUS:

NO EXCUSES

 

 

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